Sunday, October 28, 2012

A bevy of reasons to ride your bike for transportation

by Michelle Stenzel

I've been meaning to compile a list of great reasons to start riding a bike for transportation -- or to continue doing it if you're already on board with the idea. But the numerous benefits are already well documented, so instead of reinventing the bicycling wheel, I'm providing a short round up to introduce you to some of the great articles out there. (Also, take a look at this prior post for more resources on stats and research on the benefits of bicycling.)

A bicycle rider in the bike lane on Wells Street. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
This article from Forbes made a big splash in May with the title, “Pedaling to Prosperity: Biking Saves U.S. Riders Billions A Year” because, well it's from Forbes, and they're all about saving and making money. The article points out that 
If American drivers replaced just one four-mile car trip with a bike each week for the entire year, it would save more than two billion gallons of gas, for a total savings of $7.3 billion a year, based on $4 a gallon for gas.
Just one four-mile trip each week! Two miles each way takes 10 minutes by bicycle, going at a leisurely pace. If every driver did this, we'd save $7.3 billion each year. 

This recent article from Business Insider called “13 reasons to start biking to work” lists a number of arguments that might help convince you to give bike-commuting a try. I like that it's a “free gym on wheels” and you'll “never have to worry about a parking spot again”.  

I would add to the roster that if your options are biking to work or taking a packed Chicago El/bus, that riding a bike is just much more enjoyable: You control exactly when you leave and can pinpoint your arrival time because traffic jams barely factor in when you're on a bike. Plus, most of the time when you're going only a few miles, you get there faster than by public transit. 

And finally, this article from the UK-based Bike Radar has a mammoth list of 30 reasons to ride your bike, and they cover a lot of ground. Who wouldn't be inspired to get on that bike in order to look younger, boost creative thinking, and get fit without trying too hard?? 

I can definitely vouch for reason #29, that bicycling is a "surprisingly effective wake-up call". My 15-minute morning bike commute in the pre-dawn hours is one of the things I enjoy most about starting my day. Even if I feel a little sluggish when I wake up, as soon as the cool-to-cold morning air hits my face as I pedal off, I'm immediately at a heightened level of being awake, and by the time I lock up my bike at the office, I'm totally ready to start work, feeling happy, energized and relaxed, all at once.

Last week, during one of the first very frosty morning commutes of the season, as I waited at a red light in the Loop, a man on the crosswalk in front of me gestured to my bike and asked, “How's the heater working on that thing?” I smiled, pointed to my heart, and replied, “It's working just fine!”

Looking forward to seeing you out there on your bikes!
Follow us on Twitter @BikeWalkLP


  1. Really--heater works and many of my colleagues point out the great gas mileage I get. Can't remember last time I filled the tank!

  2. I still have to find a good rack to lock my bike up to so "never [having] to worry about a parking spot again" is not exactly true. It is much easier to find a place to lock your bike up than find a parking space for a car; when there are no bike racks, it can be tricky. I don't like locking to signposts because all a thief would need to do to steal my bike is loosen the single nut holding the sign in place, and pull the sign off.

    Did Forbes take bike maintenance into account when calculating those numbers? Anyone who claims that riding a bike is free is lying or misinformed. I spend $100 to $200 a month on bike repair, clothing and accessories. Riding a bike every day requires much more frequent maintenance than a bike that only gets ridden a few miles on the weekends three months out of the year.

    To the man who asked you about your "heater", you should ask him how it feels to be out in the cold for twenty minutes scraping all the snow and ice off of his windshield. :-)

    1. Yes, Forbes said the average operating cost for a bike is $308 a year, vs. $8,220 per year for a car. So, your $1200 to $2400 per year would be much higher than that quoted average figure. But yes, I think the costs vary a lot depending on distance commuted, frequency, diligence about bringing it in for tune ups or doing it oneself, etc. -- Michelle

    2. Seems a bit low, in my opinion. I usually get two tune-ups per year, and those can run around $75-$100. Factor in flat tires, buying new tires, broken spokes, wheel-trues, etc. and it can definitely tally more than $300.

      That figure seems like it is strictly for bike-related parts and maintenance. The bulk of the spending is on accessories and clothing. Maybe it's because I am cold-weather commuting for the first time and have been purchasing a lot of cold-weather gear. My bike has also needed around $200 in parts/service in the past two months (new tires, broken spokes, wheel truing).

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